13 Best Hip-Hop Halftime Performances
Hip-hop has moved the crowd at various sporting events during its rich history.
Queen Latifah holds the distinction of being the first rapper to perform at a halftime show. The hip-hop icon rocked the mic at Super Bowl XXXII in January 1998. Although Latifah sung during her set, she left an indelible impression on the NFL, which allowed other rappers to grace future halftime stages.
For example, Missy Elliott delivered a show-stopping performance at Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015—and she wasn’t even the headliner. The veteran rhymer was a guest performer for Katy Perry and rapped a medley of her biggest hits, including “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control.”
Another memorable halftime performance happened in February 2022, when Dr. Dre headlined the Super Bowl LVI’s Pepsi Halftime Show and brought out Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent and Mary J. Blige. Everyone brought their A-game and each artist delivered an electrifying performance.
Outside of football, rappers hit the stage at other sporting events as well. In 2011, Rihanna brought out Drake and Kanye West to perform during her headlining set at NBA All-Star Weekend. In 2013, Ludacris was tapped to be the musical ambassador during the NCAA Final Four games, which took place at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. Luda was on the bill for a halftime show that also featured fellow rapper Flo Rida.
XXL decided to take a trip down memory lane and compiled a list of 13 of the most memorable halftime performances during a sporting contest. Check it out below.
Queen Latifah Performs During Super Bowl XXXII
In 1998, Queen Latifah was one of a slew of performers selected to pay homage to the legacy of Motown Records during the Super Bowl XXXII halftime show. Performing her song “Paper,” which features a sample of the Motown classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Latifah made history as the first rapper to hit the stage at the Super Bowl, opening yet another door for hip-hop.
Nelly Performs During Super Bowl XXXV
Coming off the heels off his wildly successful debut album Country Grammar, Nelly joined music royalty during the Super Bowl XXXV halftime Show. In the midst of ‘N Sync, Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige joining Aerosmith on stage for a rendition of their hit “Walk This Way,” Nelly came out of nowhere, dropping the opening verse from his own hit single “E.I.” over Steven Tyler’s rollicking guitar riffs.
P. Diddy and Nelly Perform During Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show
Diddy and Nelly co-starred alongside the likes of Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004. Performing a medley of Bad Boy’s biggest hits, including “Bad Boy for Life,” “Diddy” and “Mo Money Mo Problems,” Diddy was joined by Nelly, who lit the crowd on fire with a quickstrike from his 2002 hit, “Hot in Herre.” It was a historic moment that’s unfortunately been overshadowed by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s Nipplegate controversy.
The Black Eyed Peas Perform During Super Bowl XLV Halftime Show
“Boom Boom Pow,” “Pump It,” “Let’s Get It Started” and “Where Is The Love?” are just a few of the selections The Black Eyed Peas performed during their headlining performance during the Super Bowl XLV halftime show at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In addition to rockers like Slash, The Black Eyed Peas were also joined by Usher, who popped up to perform his will.i.am collaboration “OMG” before the Peas closed things on a high note with a reprise of their sing-along smash, “I Gotta Feeling.”
Drake and Kanye West Perform at 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend
In 2011, Rihanna performed during the NBA All-Star Game halftime and brought along a few surprise guests to turn up the energy. Drake was the first surprise—he spit his verse from her Rih’s single, “What’s My Name.” The Bajan singer later summoned Kanye West for a performance of “All Of The Lights.”
Nicki Minaj Performs During Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show
In 2012, Nicki Minaj appeared alongside Madonna and M.I.A. for a rendition of “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” their collaboration from Madonna’s MDNA album, during the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show.
Ludacris and Flo Rida Perform at NCAA Final Four 2013
Atlanta representative Ludacris served as a musical ambassador for his stomping grounds during the NCAA Final Four 2013, which was held at Centennial Olympic Park. Billed alongside a diverse list of acts that included Sting and Dave Matthews Band, Ludacris pulled out all of the stops, turning up with signature cuts like “Pimpin’ All Over the World,” “What’s Your Fantasy” and “Roll Out,” showing the attendees a bit of southern hospitality in a big way.
Missy Elliott Performs During Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show
During the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Katy Perry gave the crowd and viewers a pleasant surprise when she brought out Missy Elliott. The rap legend had been relatively quiet on the music front for much of the previous decade, performed a medley of her biggest fan favorites, with songs like “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control.”
Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell Williams Perform at 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend
Hip-hop was in full force during the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend, as Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell Williams were tapped to hit the stage and take part in the festivities. Kendrick, who headlined the Saturday night of the All-Star Weekend, performed a medley of hits, including “M.A.A.D. City” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” prior to the Sprite Slam Dunk, while Pharrell Williams joined Janelle Monae and Earth, Wind & Fire during All-Star Game player introductions.
E-40 Performs During Game 1 of 2015 NBA Finals
In 2015, legendary spitter E-40 put on for The Bay by performing during halftime of the series opening match-up between his hometown squad’s Golden State Warriors and LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Hitting the crowd with bangers like “Tell Me When To Go” and “Choices,” E-40 sprinkled his swagger all over the court, perhaps providing an energy boost that helped Steph Curry’s squad to win the series in six games, giving the team its first NBA title in decades.
Desiigner Performs at Rucker Park
Brooklyn rapper Desiigner took his talents Uptown when he performed at Rucker Park in 2016 during the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic. With a standing-room-only crowd flocking to the court, the G.O.O.D. Music signee delivered a charged-up performance of his breakout hit “Panda.”
Flo Rida Performs During Game 2 of 2017 NBA Finals
Flo Rida may have made his bones coming out of the Florida rap scene, but the rapper showed Golden State Warriors fans a good time by delving into a set that ran the gamut of his biggest hits during the second game of the 2017 NBA Finals. “My House,” “Good Feeling” and his Sage the Gemini collab “Game Time” were among the tracks that Flo Rida pulled out of his grab bag of hits during his performance, which got everyone from kids to the Warriors cheerleaders involved.
Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and More Perform During Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show
Dr. Dre spread California love during his headlining set at the 2022 Super Bowl. The hip-hop icon along with Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent and Mary J. Blige delivered memorable performances at the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
Among the highlights included Eminem kneeling after performing his Oscar-winning song “Lose Yourself” in honor of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Of course, we can’t forget K-Dot’s militant performance of “Alright.”